Chewing the fat with . . . author Jeff Rivera

I hope everyone is enjoying their Thanksgiving weekend.

I recently chatted with author Jeff Rivera. Jeff is the author of Forever My Lady from Grand Central Publishing (formerly Warner Books). Here's some biographical info on Jeff:

Once homeless and living in his car, award-winning novelist Jeff Rivera writes passionate stories of those often forgotten and neglected by society. He believes even in the eyes of a gang member, even beneath the soiled clothes of a bag lady or behind the tears of a lonely kid in the back of the class, there lies a common thread that links us all, the universal human story. He has made it his personal mission to help change the way the world thinks in a positive way through his stories. Mr. Rivera currently lives in Miami, Florida.

Here's the interview:

Bettye: Jeff, Can you give us the plot overview of Forever My Lady?

Jeff Rivera: Sure, Bettye. Forever My Lady is about a kid named Dio who all he wants is to be loved. He's been rejected by everyone even his own mother and finally finds someone who truly loves him, a girl named Jennifer. They promise to stand by each other no matter what but as Dio gets older he finds himself in prison boot camp but promises to turn his life around for Jennifer and that one day they'll be married and have kids. She promises to never leave him but when he gets out he discovers she's getting ready to marry someone else.

Bettye: Wow. Talk about rotten timing. That makes me real curious about what happened in the interim, so I guess I'll have to read the book to find out! Jeff, this novel was originally self-published before being purchased by Grand Central Publishing (formerly Warner). Was it re-published in the exact same form (not counting editing), or did you do any out-and-out re-writes on it?

Jeff Rivera: Actually, believe it or not, it was kept exactly the same; they just cleaned it up a little. Well, a lot, 'cause the copyediting in it before was awful. We wanted to keep it raw and real in the first version, but I agreed that the Grand Central version looks a lot better.

Bettye: It's a very eye-catching cover. Your protagonist is rather young at the onset of the story. Who would you say is the target audience in terms of age group?

Jeff Rivera: It's funny, 'cause I know you're not supposed to say everybody, but so many people find themselves in this story no matter what the age. But if I'd have to pick one, hey, why not Young Adults.

Bettye: Why not? Time for the personal question: Your information page says you hate most vegetables. Are there any vegetables you like? Do you ever eat salad?

Jeff Rivera: Well, that's one personal question I don't mind answering! I do eat salads, thank you very much! I like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, tomatoes (if they're in spaghetti sauce), lettuce, cabbage, um ... what else? Cucumbers, well . . . only if they've been turned into pickles and on rare occassion I'll even spring a radish or two, but only rare occasions.

Bettye: Your website says your next novel will be independently released. Does that mean you are returning to self-publishing? If so, why?

Jeff Rivera: I may very well. I think I'll be the type of author who will go back and forth. There's so much freedom in doing in independently, but it's nice to have the support of a major publisher. We'll have to see how it goes . . . .

Bettye: Oh, I'm a big believer in that! Thanks, Jeff, for answering my questions. Readers, if you’d like more information on Jeff, please visit his website or pick up a copy of Forever My Lady at bookstores everywhere, or at Amazon.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Be My Guest

Today I'm blogging about an experience I had while working on my copyedits recently over at Romancing the Blog . Stop by and cast your thoughts!

The First Ten Years

Ten years ago at this time I was eagerly awaiting shelf sightings of my very first published novel, At Long Last Love. It was an Arabesque romance, published in December 1998.

I was thrilled to be a published author at last. Unlike many writers (or even most), I had no dreams of riches or great success . . . even then I knew that there were certain rules for romance writing success that I was either unwilling or unable to follow. I didn't want to write a family series, and I wrote too slow to be able to produce a book every six to eight months. My first agent lost interest in me when I objected to the every-six-month deal she arranged for me . . . without consulting me first, an action that proved she wasn't the right agent for me.

What counted to me was that I was, at long last, in print. I hoped to have an audience who enjoyed my stories, and a nice additional income wouldn't hurt, either. And I hoped to break into mainstream women's fiction, my genre of preference. Finally, I hoped to grow as a writer. I'm happy to say that all four of my goals have been attained (the fourth one is based solely on my own opinion, of course).

I recently turned in the manuscript for my 15th novel, which will be published next May. I've never gone back and read At Long Last Love or any of my older titles . . . at least until now. In about two weeks I'll be dusting off my first mainstream, The People Next Door, as I resume work on a sequel, tentatively titled Trouble Down the Road, for publication in 2010. I must say I'm not looking forward to this. I tend to be extremely critical, and I can see myself wishing I could change this or change that (which will be particularly irksome because The People Next Door is being reissued in mass market in March 2009). Unfortunately, there's no way around it. I wrote this book around 2003 (it was originally published in trade format in 2005) and need to reacquaint myself with the characters. When I started in with the sequel, I peppered my manuscript with notations like [Daughter's Name] because I'd forgotten it. At least I remembered there was a daughter . . . but when I found myself wondering things like, Didn't these people have a dog? I knew I'd have to read the whole book so I wouldn't overlook something important. Readers tend to remember every little detail.

Here's the deal. I've found that I just don't feel like doing a lot of writing these days. I may have spent two hours writing over the past weekend, and maybe five hours total in the Monday to Friday just prior. This might not seem unreasonable, except when you consider that I've been home all week and am still home (I go back to work on Wednesday). And no, I'm not home due to illness.

This is the same thing that happened to me when I first moved to the Midwest 2-1/2 years ago. My husband suggested that I take half a year off because I'd been working so hard (I was the one who closed up the house, painted, packed, supervised movers, etc., with emergency eye surgery toward the end, because he was needed at his new job right away). I said to myself, Wow, look at all the writing I'll get done, but I ended up doing, well, some writing, but not a whole lot.

Considering that I spent many years working from home doing medical transcription, it's not like I lacked the discipline to work from my home office. Part of it may have had something to do with my being in what was then a new and strange place. I do remember feeling terribly isolated all day and being thrilled when I heard my husband's key in the lock when he came home from work. Since we moved again, only 20 miles away but across a state border I'm in another strange place, albeit a much nicer place. So instead of writing, I've done the housewife thing: Laundry, ironing, old movies on Turner Classics, dusting, ironing, vacuuming, and, most of all, unpacking the non-essential boxes still stacked in the garage, which I've been wanting to do from the time we moved (I took no time off from work back then).

There's still a chance that I'll finish the two projects I hoped to complete before turning my attentions to contracted work; it is, after all, still the middle of the month. But there is undeniably a lowered level of enthusiasm for writing in my heart. I don't know why, I just know it's there, and it won't return until my mind is ready for it to do so.


I've been interviewed by Ella Curry of EDC Creations.

Click here to read the interview. Ella is a strong supporter of African-American writers and offers all kinds of services to writers. Check out her fabulous web site here.

A good weekend to all!

Higher and Higher

I know prices have been shooting up in recent months, but I've managed to face it pretty calmly. However, I just sent a copyedited manuscript back to my editor via Fedex, and the cost of this absolutely stunned me. Nearly $26 for a second-day delivery! This makes me wish I'd finished the doggone thing yesterday and could have sent it three-day Express Saver. After all, I had it ready for shipment in less than an hour this morning. But there are few things in life more exhausting than going over a copyedited manuscript, and after working on it from 9AM to 4:30PM yesterday I was exhausted. Since I saved the trickiest copyeditor observations for last, I felt I needed a clear head, so I decided to pack it in for the day. Now that I'm done and it was relatively simple instead of the daunting task it seemed like yesterday, I'm confident I did the right thing.

Most of us have said at one time or another things like, "I remember when that $2 toll was a quarter," or "I remember when gas was 35 cents a gallon." Well, I remember when a full manuscript could be sent second-day Fedex for about ten bucks . . . and it wasn't all that long ago.

I guess I can be grateful that that this is the age of email for manuscript submission (depending on your editor, I suppose), even if copyedits and galleys have to be made on hard copy.

Fedex delivered my covers while I was addressing all those copyeditor comments, and I feel they did a fabulous job on this one. I do plan to put it on my next newsletter before I post it here, which will be in early December, so stay tuned!

Mama Africa is Gone

South African singer Miriam Makeba passed away after a performance in Italy, of an apparent heart attack. (Since she was performing in support of a journalist under death threats for writing a book about organized crime, I have to wonder if she could have been poisoned, but I guess that's neither here nor there.)

Ms. Makeba's talent was recognized early, and she performed before Queen Elizabeth II. Her outspoken criticism of the South African apartheid system resulted in her being barred from re-entering South Africa after an international concert tour in 1959. With true heartlessness, the government did not allow Ms. Makeba entry to attend her mother's funeral the following year. It was not until after the end of apartheid in 1990 - over 30 years later - that she was allowed to return to her homeland.

Two of her husbands were American activist Stokely Carmichael and fellow South African and fellow exiled citizen Hugh Masekela.

Miriam Makeba is best known to American audiences for her 1967 hit song, Pata Pata. I remember running to get that record as a 10-year-old and playing it over and over. Even now I have it on CD. I dare you to listen to this song and keep still. It's impossible.

Rest in peace, Mama Africa.


I'm busy doing the copyediting thing for A New Kind of Bliss, and although from what I see these look a lot less detailed than the ones for my last book, Once Upon A Project, this is something that takes time to get done. It's my last chance to do re-writes; they frown on these at the galley stage.

Have a wonderful weekend! Here in Wisconsin they're predicting a dusting of snow on grassy areas. Hard to believe, since the early part of othis week it hit 71 degrees, but as we all know, in life situations change very quickly.

I'm proud to say I've been interviewed by the Cozy Corner of Elegance Book Club, who will be reading Once Upon A Project at their January meeting, on their new web site, so check it out here! I must have typed my answers in a real hurry, I said hand when I meant to say head.

Yes, We Did

That's all.

As we prepare for Election Day . . . .

. . . someone passed this on to me, and I thought it had real merit. You might have seen this before, but my, what a difference in perceptions.

Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis probably knows that color does matter. This is for the ones who don't agree.


"What if the Obamas had paraded five children across the stage, following the debate, including a three month-old infant and an unwed, pregnant teenage daughter?

What if John McCain was a former president of the Harvard Law Review?

What if Barack Obama finished fifth from the bottom of his college graduating class?

What if McCain had only married once, and Obama were divorced? What if Obama had met his second wife in a bar and had a long affair while he was still married?

What if Cindy McCain graduated from Harvard? What if Michelle Obama was the wife who not only became addicted to pain killers but also acquired them illegally through her charitable organization?

What if Obama couldn't read from a teleprompter?

What if Obama was the one who had military experience that included discipline problems and a record of crashing seven planes?

What if Obama was the one who was known to publicly display a serious anger management problem?

What if Michelle Obama's family had made their money from beer distribution?

You could easily add to this list. If these questions reflected a reality, if the tables were turned, do you really believe the election numbers would be as close as they are?

This is what racism does. It covers up, rationalizes and minimizes qualities in one candidate and emphasizes negative characteristics in another when there is a color difference. And, think of this - the candidates' educational backgrounds:

Barack Obama: Columbia University - B. A. Political Science with a Specialization in International Relations. Harvard - Juris Doctor (J. D.) Magna Cum Laude

Joe Biden: University of Delaware - B. A. in History and B. A. in Political Science. Syracuse University College of Law - Juris Doctor (J. D.)

John McCain: United States Naval Academy - Class rank: 894 of 899

Sarah Palin: Hawaii Pacific University - 1 semester; North Idaho College - 2 semesters , general study; University of Idaho - 2 semesters, journalism; Matanuska-Susitna College - 1 semester; University of Idaho - 3 semesters, B. A. in Journalism.

Education isn't everything, but this is about the two highest offices in the land, as well as our standing in the world.

You make the call."

Please vote tomorrow if you haven't already, no matter who you support.

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

I woke up a half hour ago positive that the time had changed, but only my bedside clock said 5:30. The cable boxes and that little clock on the CNN screen all showed 6:30.

Yet when I check the Internet I see a plethora of articles stating that Fall Back date 2008 is November 2nd.

Am I in the twilight zone or something????

I'll have to call the airline to make sure I get my mother to the airport on a timely basis. I don't want her to have to wait an extra hour.

Do You NaNoWriMo?

Despite having a full day yesterday that started before 5AM, I felt an urge to stay up and write last night, not calling it a night until 11PM.

Part of this is probably due to the fact that I barely wrote 50 words during October, and I'm just hungry to get started. Changing jobs, having my mother visiting (she flies home tomorrow morning), and having over 25 houseguests for a long weekend just doesn't leave a lot of spare time. But now that the eerie glow of Halloween has worn off, I realize that today is November 1st. November 1st, as in NaNoWriMo.

I'm not participating in the annual writing marathon this year (I believe their web site is It's too big of a stretch to go from not writing at all to trying to crank out 50K words in 30 days. Besides, my plans do not include actually writing a novel from scratch. I've got to revise one proposal and create a second, ideally before the end of the month, so I can turn my attentions to my next contracted work come December. And I will likely be receiving copyedits for next spring's release in the middle of all this.

I'll report my success (or lack of) 30 days from now.

What about you? Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Why, or why not?

Off to write. And I get an extra hour this weekend to do it!!